El Salvador 2015

2015 El Salvador Deployment Report

FRITA Team: Norm MacLeod, Jeffrey Moore, Scott Landseidel, Allan Gartner, Blake Strauts, Rich Rangers

Submitted by Team Lead: Norm MacLeod

This year, once again, our FRITA Deployment finished our week of training with an immense sense of satisfaction.

Our Team faced a number of challenges both prior to, and during the deployment. Thankfully, Jeffrey Moore was able to make contact with government officials both here in Vancouver and in El Salvador. His efforts in this capacity are what helped us finally receive official confirmation of our visit.

Although not planned, all members of the team, with the exception of Jeff who had travelled at an earlier date, had booked flights to San Salvador from Los Angeles on the same flight. This allowed us to meet at LAX airport prior to departure and introduce ourselves to one another.

We arrived at the Hotel Grecia Friday morning which allowed us the entire day to orient ourselves and to do some exploring. As expected, the staff at the hotel are always welcoming, accommodating and friendly. The rooms are clean and, although basic, also comfortable. Free Wi-Fi was a bonus that allowed us to keep in touch with family back home.

Saturday morning the team awoke, had breakfast and although not extravagant, it was tasty and satisfying. By 10 am we were in the CBES van and off to the Cuartel to tour the training grounds and equipment. Despite sending an required equipment list several weeks prior to our arrival, what was presented was a small collection of hand tools, ladders, saws etcetera, all in various states of dis-repair. Past practice has dictated that when we start training, part of the time is dedicated to acquiring whatever you need on the day you need it.

On Sunday, the team again found ourselves on the road off to experience the area as tourists. Starting with a visit to a Coffee Plantation once owned by Jeff’s Grandparents, we toured the production facility, learned about the drying and roasting process and walked through a nursery of young coffee trees.

Sunday evening, sickness took our team by surprise and a few members began to experience some ‘issues’. I, as Team Lead, was the recipient of the worst of it. On the eve of our first training day, I was completely incapacitated and unable to function. Thankfully, members of the Team, each a leader in their own right, stepped up and came together to organize and facilitate the first day of training and it went off without a hitch.

The rest of the week’s training went well and we focused on the skills of the basic firefighter program. As several Bomberos pointed out, they felt the training was of significant value as they simply do not practice unless at event’s such as this. Our training was essentially scenario based and focused on their safety and ways to improve already established skill sets such as raising ladders and hose deployment. Experience in the group ranged from Bomberos with less than a year on the job to 25 years on the job. Our translators, Jorge and Martin joined us once again and spent the week assisting us with the delivery of our program.

There were 18 students in total with two students being female. The media was with us on two separate days as they were doing a positive story on female firefighters in the CBES.

One additional type of training provided this year was Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR). A bag of 9 fold up ACTAR dolls was brought down and distributed to the members of the rural stations so they could train other Bomberos in this important life-saving skill.

At the end of our 5 days of training, all students received a FRITA participation certificate. During the week, we had met numerous times with both Wilson Segura (Head of Training) and Ricardo McLeod to strengthen our relationship and re-establish our commitment to training the Bomberos of CBES.

During Monday evening, the Team had the privilege of dining with the Vice Minister in charge of Public Safety. She spoke very highly of the work we are doing in El Salvador and expressed her appreciation of our efforts.

Wednesday evening, we were invited to the Canadian Ambassador’s home were we enjoyed an amazing dinner cooked by his Wife, Blanca.

On Saturday, with training completed, we spent the day at Lago de Coatepeque (the lake in the Volcano crater), hosted by Jeff’s Cousin and her son and daughter. Here we were able to enjoy a beautiful setting, do a little swimming, and take some time to decompress. We also enjoyed a fantastic boat ride around the lake.

Hasta La Vista, El Salvador!